Apollo astronauts were equipped with Sony TC-50 cassette voice recorder/player (described in this answer) primarily for recording voice with mission related notes, but they could (and did) listen to pre-recorded mixtapes with their favourite songs, whilst coasting to/from the Moon.

An article from Miami Herald describes a (questionable to my view) isolated case of the Moon oddity:

Sinatra recording ["Fly Me To The Moon"] became immortal when Aldrin played it off of his NASA issued cassette player when he stepped onto the moon’s surface shortly after Armstrong.

In support of this claim the article is citing another article in New York Times from 1990:

“The first music played on the moon. I freaked!” [Quincy] Jones told The New York Times in 1990, recounting how Aldrin surprised him at a party to tell him how he’d chosen “Fly Me to the Moon” as the soundtrack for his space walk.

It seems very strange, to say the least, to play music on a moonwalk: if Buzz had the TC-50 strapped to the outside of his spacesuit, obviously without atmosphere no one would hear anything (hence what's the point?), and in order to be able to hear the music one has to somehow put the player inside the spacesuit, which no astronaut in his sanity would even think of doing.

On the other side, I've found an essay by Martin Chilton on independent.co.uk (a bit of long read though) that is calling the Aldrin's "moonwalk music" a myth and trying to debunk it:

...when he was 82, Aldrin took part in a Q&A at the Empire Hotel in New York, and his answers were recorded on his official website, buzzaldrin.com. “Is it true that the first music heard on the lunar surface was when you played Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’?” he was asked. “No, I don’t remember that,” Aldrin replied.

(Emphasis on the above quotes mine)


Technically it was entirely possible to play music inside the Lunar Module while resting between/after EVA.

Question: Did any of Apollo atronauts play music from their mixtapes whilst on the moon surface (Update: what I really meant here was "inside LM, whilst LM was on the surface, i.e. not in flight")?

Did any of them even take the TC-50 into LM (from CM) when heading for the moon landing (from lunar orbit)?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia says that the TC-50 played music in the spacecraft but I'm not sure if it's referring to the CM or the LM. I think it might be both. $\endgroup$ – Star Man Dec 30 '19 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ I would be extremely surprised if any music was played during a lunar EVA by an Apollo crewman performing that EVA. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Dec 30 '19 at 19:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble I agree (I have described my thoughts on inadequacy of this in the 6th paragraph, counting quotes as paragraphs too) , the main question I intended to ask is "did they play music inside LM when LM was on the surface?" (I thought it was logically obvious from the previous pagraph: "inside the Lunar Module while resting between/after EVA"), but perhaps I chose poor wording "on the surface" which didn't clearly include this. I will update the formulation. $\endgroup$ – Sergiy Lenzion Dec 30 '19 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble: Would you mind looking at my answer to this question? $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Apr 3 at 4:24
  • $\begingroup$ @drsheldon I know nothing about this topic but it looks like an excellent answer to me. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 3 at 4:29

No, because the LM's tape recorder had no playback

A portable cassette recorder was stowed in the command module. The primary reason for this recorder was to give the astronauts a means to make verbal log entries, as an alternative to written entries.

However, the astronauts were given the blank tapes in advance, and the CM cassette recorder could also play the cassettes back. NASA did allow the astronauts to put music on the cassettes, as long as they were willing to overwrite those cassettes for work during the mission. This CollectSpace forum has some claims about music brought to space. There is a page with the list of the 29 songs carried by Apollo 10. This Vanity Fair article has some details about how several of the Apollo song tapes were made.

Stowage lists indicate only one cassette recorder was supplied with each mission, and that it was never transferred to the LM or back. During the lunar excursion, the cassette recorder remained with the command module pilot in the CM. While orbiting the moon solo during Apollo 16, Ken Mattingly was often heard playing music from the cassette recorder:

And occasionally we are getting bits and pieces drifting through the communications of what sounds like Marshall music that Ken Mattingly is playing on the onboard tape recorder.


108 36 31 Roosa: Yes, it sure sounds like it; in fact, we were catching a little of your music occasionally there. Didn't sound as good as (laughter) Riding Old Paint", but I guess it'll do.

108 36 47 Mattingly: Well, I've been listening to "Old Paint" kind of music for three days of PTC. But it was good "Old Paint," I'll have to admit. I enjoyed it.

In contrast, the recorder for the lunar module was called the Data Storage Electronics Assembly (DSEA). It was permanently-mounted (i.e. not portable and could not be put inside spacesuits) and hard-wired into other LM systems.

There was a control to digitally transmit the tape contents back to mission control. However, there was no ability to play back recordings to the astronauts, and thus it could not be used to play music:

The DSEA provides voice-recording capability. The audio signal is supplied from the astronaut's bus in the CS to the DSEA, where it is recorded along with time reference signals (mission elapsed time) from the PCMTEA. Ten hours of recording time is provided in the DSEA. The tape cannot be played back by the DSEA; this must be performed with ground equipment.

Apollo Operations Handbook: Lunar Module vol. 1, p. 2.9-6

I also checked the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, and there is no mention of astronauts playing music while on the moon.

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